Here’s your guide to navigating solo travel with ease
There is something to be said for solo travel. While I love the sister-time of traveling with a girlfriend and the allure of #baecation, solo travel definitely has that X factor, that certain something that you can’t replicate by traveling with another person. There are a million and one reasons why people put off traveling alone, but here are a few reasons to “Just Do It,” and a few tips to help you get through your first solo adventure.
You have “me time.” How often do you get to spend time with just yourself? For half of you, this idea is probably daunting. For the other half, solo time sounds liberating AF. The truth of the matter is, you’re with yourself every minute of every day, so you already know who you’re going with. Or maybe you don’t. If that is the case, use this alone time to journal, get in touch with your inner self, dig deep and find out what’s been challenging you, not challenging you enough, and search for your next steps. And you can do this at your own pace, without any distractions of kids, husband/bae, job or excuses of any kind. If you feel like you have it all under control, what better time to journal, reflect and give gratitude to your creator and celebrate you on your own terms!
It gets you out of your comfort zone. Another benefit of solo travel is that you are forced to come out of your comfort zone, which invariably creates lasting memories and a few surprises along the way. When you travel alone, you are no longer tethered to someone else’s likes and interests. You are setting your own itinerary and may experience some things you wouldn’t do with a companion. For example, you may find yourself wandering into a museum you never may have visited because your bestie isn’t a fan of Renaissance art. You may get up early and take a leisurely stroll to that antique shop you spotted and find that piece of estate jewelry you’ve been searching for. Personally, my greatest reward thus far has been the friendship I developed with two friends from Rio I met while on a solo trip in 2010. Had I been with another person, I never would have struck up a conversation with Pedro and Alvaro, and I am glad I did. Since then, we’ve traveled to 10 countries together, met each other’s friends and families, and I count them as friends for life. Now if that’s not a gift, I don’t know what is.
You get to do those things you never get around to doing at home. We have so many responsibilities at home that oftentimes we don’t get time to nourish our interests because life gets in the way. Well, guess what? Now on your solo vacation, you have the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t made the time. Example: In spite of the fact that I love to cook, I’ve only taken one (yes, one) cooking class at home, and that was with a group of girlfriends for someone’s birthday. But when I travel, I make time and I have taken more cooking classes abroad than I can count on both hands. Somehow, these things always seem sexier when you’re traveling. In Paris, I took a cooking class in this woman’s house, and the bonus: I got to shop for the food at some of Paris’ famous street markets with a Parisian bi-lingual cook who showed me things I would not have seen on my own. If cooking’s not your thing, try an art appreciation class, wine tasting … you get the point.
Consider a cruise. If you’re a still a little weary about traveling solo, consider a cruise. Before you give the eye roll, I am not talking about the floating Vegas hotel-sized ships. There are many smaller cruise lines such as Windstar and Uniworld that have ships that carry fewer than 300 passengers. You go from port to port and don’t have to worry about schlepping your bags or hightailing it to the airport to get to your next destination. And the shore excursions and meal times are another great way to meet people. I met my Brazilian friends on a Windstar cruise and after that, I was never really alone, unless I wanted to be.
You have options. The internet is your best friend on a solo vacation. If you are inclined to meet up with other likeminded travelers, sites like Nomadness Travel Tribe and Soul Society 101 are members-only, African-American-centric travel groups. With Facebook pages and forums, these sites allow you to connect with a friendly face while traveling. I sent out a “bat call” on Nomadness while in Bali and met up with an ex-pat at her boutique, which sold the chicest Afro-centric pieces in the middle of downtown Ubud. Meetup is another good source of information. They have endless groups and classes where you can meet up for just about anything you can imagine.
The best thing about traveling alone is that the only person you have to please is you. Feeling energized? Ramp it up. Knocked out that ambitious itinerary? Then order room service and chill. With FaceTime, internet, endless social groups available at your disposal, you never have to really be alone anyway, so make the most of this time and celebrate you!
From Hello Beautiful